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Joseph "Joe" Brian McDonald

July 31, 1951 ~ November 28, 2020 (age 69)


Grand Marais

            Joseph Brian “Joe” McDonald, age 69, of Grand Marais, Michigan died peacefully on Saturday, November 28, 2020, at Medilodge in Munising following an illness and excellent care at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital.  He was born on July 31, 1951, in Detroit, Michigan to Charles Joseph “Joe” and Alftruda Grace “Trudy” (Bell) McDonald.  Joe grew up in California, New Jersey, and Ohio, where Joe Sr. was a social worker, and Trudy was a librarian.  He graduated from Mariemont High School in Ohio with science and mechanical engineering skills.  Joe and his family visited Grand Marais every summer growing up, sailing, canoeing, and learning woodcraft from three generations of Bell relatives.  He started college in San Diego, California, and loved the coast and desert.  Joe graduated from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.  Joe worked as a computer programmer for Motorola in Chicago for twenty years, developing the cellular communications systems we all rely on.  He brought his job north in 2002, to help care for his mom Trudy, returning to the family home in Grand Marais that he and his siblings designed and built for his parents.  Joe was very active with the Burt Township Ambulance Corps and the Eastern U.P. Search and Rescue.  He enjoyed sailing on Lake Superior, and using his radio electronics skills with Search and Rescue.  Joe was a gardener, builder, electrician, woodsman, an avid reader, and he loved old movies.  He was a superb carpenter and was always active in the community.  He set up the sound systems for many community events like the Community Cabaret and the Dog Sled Races, and was the guy you could always call on for car trouble or any other rural emergency.  He always helped with a smile, and gave with an open heart.

            Joe is survived by his siblings – Ira (Nancy) McDonald of Grand Marais, David (Jen) McDonald of Seattle, Washington, and Sylvia McDonald (Bernie Schwab) of Cincinnati, Ohio ‒ and many other loving relatives.  He was preceded in death by his parents.

            A family memorial service will take place at a later date.  Interment will be at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Grand Marais. 

            Memorials in Joe’s name may be sent to the Janzen House, 146 W Spring St, Marquette MI 49855 and Grand Marais Historical Society, PO Box 179, Grand Marais MI 49839,

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Janzen House
146 W. Spring Street, Marquette MI 49855

Grand Marais Historical Society
PO Box 179, Grand Marais MI 49839

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